Posted on: October 1, 2019
One of the biggest lessons Dr. Kara Montgomery discovered through teaching University 101 was the importance of truly listening to her students as a way to understand their needs. “I try to listen. Teaching University 101 reminds you to do that. When students present their lifelines, you see what is really important to them, and you see all the things they have going on in their lives.” Listening has become a central feature of Kara’s teaching in her other classes as well. “This year, at the beginning of the semester, I asked my big public health class that has 108 people, what are the issues you are most passionate about? For the first time, mental health came up, so I have been trying to talk about it every week if I can.”
Kara is one of over two hundred University of South Carolina staff and faculty who are teaching University 101 this fall. Instructors come from every college and school at USC Columbia and represent a wide variety of departments on campus. They come to the classroom with a rich diversity of backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences, but they are all motivated by a desire to impact first-year students. University 101 Instructors also receive an added benefit – teaching the course helps them develop skills that enhance their work in their primary roles. In fact, 92% of fall 2018 instructors indicated that teaching University 101 helped them learn things they could apply to their professional responsibilities.
Sometimes we can get stuck in the silo of [our] college and forget about this whole world outside of it, but teaching University 101 every year reminds me that I’m part of the whole USC community.
- Dr. Kara Montgomery
The importance of listening to students is just one of the many lessons that Kara has learned in the twenty years she has been teaching UNIV 101. Kara is a Clinical Associate Professor in the Arnold School of Public Health. In this role, Kara advises students and teaches a variety of public health courses. Kara is also an alumna of the University of South Carolina's Higher Education and Student Affairs master’s program and of the Health Promotion, Education, & Behavior PhD program.
Kara’s work as a University 101 Instructor has helped her develop a network of colleagues across campus that she uses as resources for her public health students. “I’m an example of someone who is primarily faculty but who knows a lot of people in student affairs.” Kara’s large network allows her to serve as an exceptional resource for all her students. For example, when Kara’s public health students show an interest in sustainability, she sends them directly to Grace Kazmierski who serves as a University 101 Instructor and the Assistant Director for Student Engagement with the Office of Sustainability. Kara credits the Building Connections Conference with helping her to establish relationships with colleagues from across campus. "I feel like I learn more about what people do through the Building Connections Conference and the [weekly instructor] newsletter. I feel better when I know someone in the office I send my students to.”
While instructors like Kara receive an array of personal and professional benefits through teaching University 101, the type of impact varies based on instructors’ primary positions. While most of Kara’s time is spent in the classroom or advising students, Tawana Johnson has very little interaction with students in her role as HR manager. Even so, Tawana also credits University 101 with helping to enhance how she performs her primary role on campus.
Tawana Johnson is the Manager of Faculty HR and Academic Support in the Darla Moore School of Business and is a graduate of the University of South Carolina's Darla Moore School of Business. Tawana has taught a business section of University 101 for the past three years. She credits teaching with helping her hone her public speaking skills and with serving as a source of vitality.
We get so overwhelmed in paper work and different policies, and seeing what we’re all here for, the students, is a great reminder of our purpose.
- Tawana Johnson
Teaching UNIV 101 has given Tawana an increased sense of confidence in conducting and facilitating trainings in her primary role. As a self-proclaimed introvert who has not always been comfortable getting in front of crowds, teaching UNIV 101 has not only helped Tawana feel more at ease facilitating trainings, but also has given her tools to enhance her trainings. “Now I’m able to get up in front of a large group and engage and get them to reciprocate…I’ve picked up tactics that we use in University 101. For example, now I do check-ins first to help participants open up.”
Tawana also recognizes that teaching University 101 has helped her to stay focused on what matters. “In my primary job as the HR manager, I have very little interaction with students, so teaching is a breath of fresh air, because at the end of the day we’re all here for the students…we get so overwhelmed in paper work and different policies, and seeing what we’re all here for, the students, is a great reminder of our purpose.”
Additionally, teaching University 101 has positively impacted Tawana and Kara’s sense of belonging at South Carolina. Kara noted, “In my role as faculty, sometimes we can get stuck in the silo of [our] college and forget about this whole world outside of it, but teaching University 101 every year reminds me that I’m part of the whole USC community.” It is widely recognized that enrolling in University 101 helps students feel a sense of belonging, but it should not be overlooked that teaching also leads faculty and staff to an increased sense of community and satisfaction with USC.